18 Diversity and Inclusion

Welcome. We are building an inclusive community.

(“One of my favorite things about Lafayette 283/365” by Scott Mcleod is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Wiktionary[1] defines diversity as

“the quality of being diverse or differentdifference or unlikeness.”

Diversity is often perceived as an organisational goal or ethical preference. For OER, including diverse perspectives is vital. Diversity in open education can be achieved by including a variety of sociological perspectives in your open content. Doing this ensures that your students can identify with and relate to your course material. Critical here is ensuring that all cultures are presented accurately in your materials, and not according to stereotypes or perceptions based on the standards of your own culture.

Whether intentional or not, ethnocentrism — “a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own”[2] — can creep into the content and presentation of your course materials, and it is something all authors should be aware of. This doesn’t mean you must create course content that accurately portrays and includes all cultures and perspectives. However, you should be respectful toward other people and be aware of your biases as they arise.

One way you can accomplish this is by explicitly acknowledging the perspectives that are included in your content and those which are not. How has your social and cultural background reflected on the work you’ve created? What authors are being cited and acknowledged in your work, and why? Acknowledging that your perspective is limited while including other perspectives in your work can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Some benefits of including diverse perspectives in your course content include:

  • Engaging more students because they recognise themselves or their life experiences in your course content.
  • Sharing content that appeals to instructors in a variety of educational settings.
  • Creating a more interesting reading and learning experience for your students and learners around the world.

If you aren’t certain about how or where to add examples relevant to other cultures, that doesn’t mean your resource will never include these perspectives. Thanks to your OER open licence, once your resource has been published, instructors from other countries, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds might choose to remix your work for their course’s needs.


The changes they make might include:

  • Translating the book into a different language.
  • Adjusting the content to meet the local cultural, regional, and geographical interests.
  • Revising the material for a different learning environment.

Another option for making your work more inclusive from the beginning is to consider inviting instructors and professionals in your field to contribute to your OER. However, you should be aware of the ways in which your project’s design may deter or welcome people of other ethnicities, races, and cultural backgrounds[3]. For example, you may have set up regular meetings for those collaborating on your project at a time that is not feasible for a scholar living in a different time zone. Keep this and other considerations in mind if you would like people from other countries to collaborate on your project.

Watch the video below to hear Dr Meera Sabaratnam and School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) students talk about their university’s efforts to decolonise the curriculum and provide a more global educational experience. OER affords teachers the flexibilities required to offer a more inclusive curriculum.[4]

Decolonising the Curriculum: A Global Education (2:39 mins)

“Decolonising the Curriculum: A Global Education” by SOAS University of London is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Advancing inclusivity through open pedagogy

Open pedagogy can be a powerful tool for letting students take control over how they engage with and relate to their course content. In some ways, engaging students in the creation of OER can be seen as the ultimate way of allowing them to see themselves reflected in their work.

However, there can be some concerns with this approach as well. For example, your student body might be composed of a majority of one race, gender, or class, making the total “picture” of the course content created by your students less inclusive overall.[5]

Here are some considerations to keep in mind when having students create course content, especially if your course is covering a topic related to gender, race, or cultural studies:

  • Ask students for their input on the inclusivity of your resources.
  • Think about how your OER could be more diverse (pictures, examples, etc.).
  • Watch out for harmful depictions of diverse populations from your students.
  • Have a plan in place to address issues if they arise.

Fostering an environment of inclusion where your students can engage with different cultural norms is an important aspect of the tertiary education experience, whether you are teaching physics or criminal justice. Although it might be daunting to jump into creating an inclusive educational resource, keep in mind that OER can be improved upon and continually revisited by yourself and others.

Start by finding or creating an OER that work for you, and avoid pitfalls like ethnocentric and trans-exclusionary language. You can always revisit your chosen OER or work with others to improve upon it by adding more diverse examples later on.

Don’t “other” your students

When attempting to make your course materials more inclusive, the first thing you should watch out for is the possibility of “othering” your students. Wiktionary[6] defines othering as “ the process of perceiving or portraying someone or something as essentially alien or different”.

Some best practices for avoiding othering include:

  • Never assume your audience’s gender and/or gender identity, ability, or sexual orientation.
  • Avoid calling the most commonly seen traits in your context “normal.”
  • Always make materials accessible for all students.

Further Reading

  1. Wiktionary: The Free Dictionary https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Main_Page CC BY SA 3.0
  2. Rebus Community. (2017, September 29). Diversity, equity, and inclusion in OER. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/rUiyiAT0uMQ  CC-BY 3.0
  3. Rebus Community.(2017, September 29). Diversity, equity, and inclusion in OER. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/rUiyiAT0uMQ CC-BY 3.0
  4. SOAS University of London. (2019, September 23). Decolonising the curriculum: A global education [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtCuyJEv2wI  CC BY 4.0
  5. Bali, M. (2014). Critical pedagogy: intentions and realities. http://hybridpedagogy.org/critical-pedagogy-intentions-realities/ CC BY-NC 4.0
  6. Wiktionary: The Free Dictionary https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Main_Page CC BY SA 3.0


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OER Capability Toolkit Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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